The traditional route into a big law firm in the city of London is typically attending a prestigious private school followed by Oxbridge or Russell group university. Whilst the profession has always sought to hire the very best, many would argue that by focusing on such a narrow pool of talent the sector has not created a picture of itself that reflects modern day society. Some would also argue that the sector has been complacent and slow to change.
Whilst this may be true on some level, it is also evident that the sector is taking genuine steps to address inequalities of access and to encourage young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds toward a professional career in law through a range of widening participation programs and Mayer Brown is no exception.
Last week, the firm launched a legal apprenticeship program that will enable apprentices to work at Mayer Brown whilst embarking on a part-time study route that will lead directly to qualification as a solicitor. In partnership with The University of Law, Mayer Brown is the first law firm in the City of London to launch the innovative program, and we hope many other law firms in London will follow suit. The traditional route to qualification as a solicitor — a full time degree followed by the Legal Practice Course and a two year training contract — has been overhauled. Alternative routes into the sector such as CILEx and now legal apprenticeships provide a credible alternative to what was the status quo, and will be welcomed by those from less advantaged backgrounds who are put off by the financial burden of full time study and keen to start work.